HAPPILY, I once checked in for an eye-opening stay in hospital.

It was for an exclusive 'on location TV assignment' to Bristol – the home of fictitious Holby City and Casualty.

I was led into a top secret warehouse and was greeted by swing doors into a fully-fledged hospital complete with reception desk, operating theatres, machines that went 'bing', trolleys and clinical waiting rooms.

Famous actors were dressed in white coats and crisp nurses uniforms all they bustled up and down corridors.

I was felt like a ghostly extra as the NHS - as I knew it - took star status followed around by cameras.

And yet something was missing in this virtual reality world.

Eventually it clicked.

The smell of antiseptic was not there.

As a former TV editor, this appointment with a difference was an unforgettable revelation.

I had grown up with, watched and written about all medical dramas and always been impressed by the great pains directors and writers went to for accuracy.

The on-going stories of dedicated people treating the sick and transforming lives.

Granted, medical dramas are fiction, but in recent years TV producers have upped our dosage.

We have been given fly-on-the wall documentaries that take us into accident and emergency departments, ambulance and para medic call-outs, maternity units and behind-the-screens look inside private GP surgeries.

We are addicted to medical series just like cops and detective dramas.

I am genuinely sick and tired of contrived reality shows, but applaud any programme - fact and fiction - that highlights the work of our so often under-valued health service.

That is why I welcome two new life- affirming programmes that will spotlight the NHS in 2018 in its 70th anniversary.

First on offer next month is the long-overdue NHS Heroes Awards with Wirral's Paul O'Grady hosting the ITV event.

It will be emotional viewing as Paul has been treated with TLC for three heart attacks.

He thanked staff in every level including porters and cleaners and the army of volunteers.

Jo Brand, a former mental nurse, will have her clipboard at the ready for BBC2 quiz Britain's Best Junior Doctors - a kind of medical Mastermind meets University Challenge - this summer.

Fingers on bunions ... er, buzzers.

As long as we have the NHS on the small screen in dramas or warts and all insights, it will remind us all - especially politicians from all our parties - just why we must celebrate and support this unique institution which is the envy of every other country.

I know I wouldn't be here without them.

Action ... camera.

Take a bow, dear NHS.


I WAS in hospital again this week, actually it was a check-up with Radio Clatterbridge – no slipped discs or medical records were discussed.

This is the station - born in 1951 - which introduced The Beatles to broadcasting thanks to Monty Lister who went onto be a stalwart of BBC Radio Merseyside with his morale-boosting Tune Tonic programme.

I have fond memories of interviewing him when he left the Beeb after 35 glorious years.

Last week I referred to this 'late, great' local hero.

Now, thanks to his proud nephew, I can put the record straight ... Monty is alive and well in a Bebington care home where he is a much-loved celebrity in the truest sense of the word.

Not 'late' but definitely great – a living legend, indeed.


A SURVEY recently came up with its 10 best festivals for the year.

It included a 'tomato throwing' competition in Spain.

But, seriously, I believe Wirral has one fabulous festival that would literally walk away with accolades for its universal appeal.

I won't ramble, but suffice to say the Wirral Walking Festival, which kicks off on May 1, shows just what the peninsula has to offer.

My favourite is Bats of the River Park where walkers are armed with bat detectors.

Wirral is a 'walking wonderland'.

How's that for a catchy title.

The council has all details of the paid for and free attractions.

There are 200 of them – appealing to everyone from all walks of life.

Beats pelting people with tomatoes.


ALL aboard.

It's 50 years since the release of The Beatles' animated classic film Yellow Submarine.

The song is a tribute to the Fab Four's childhood in Liverpool.

Cammell Laird even built a mini-version for the International Garden Festival.

But every time I hear the singalong song I break out in a cold sweat.

I am transported back to Israel when I was invited to a drinks reception on a tourism vessel.

I climbed downstairs and heard the unwelcome term 'up periscope'.

I was sinking to new depths in my life.

Being claustrophobic I had a panic attack with Ringo's voice ringing in my ears as I saw fish swim by in this real life yellow submarine.

I will, however, be in the audience on July 8 when Fact Cinema in Liverpool will screen the movie. I might bring my water wings.


AND finally ...

Our dearly-departed Ken Dodd explained why we did not see much of him on telly in recent years: "I can't cook," was his answer.

So, as Masterchef is put back in the schedules freezer for now, I will share a cookery tip from one of Doddy's all-time favourite comedians - Gracie Allen.

This is her classic recipe for Roast beef which always tickled Sir Ken: 

'One large roast of beef:

One small roast of beef.

Take the two roasts and put them in the oven.

When the little one burns the big one is done’.

Jamie Oliver ... eat your heart out.

Peter Grant